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'Hold the line': Chicago police union head urges officers to defy Mayor Lightfoot's COVID vaccine mandate, threatens 50% fewer cops this weekend

John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The head of the Chicago police officers' union has called on its members not to comply with the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara warned that there could be half as many cops on the streets this weekend because of Mayor Lori Lightfoot's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In late August, Mayor Lightfoot announced that all employees of the city of Chicago would be required to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

"As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, we must take every step necessary and at our disposal to keep everyone in our city safe and healthy," Lightfoot said in a statement. "Getting vaccinated has been proven to be the best way to achieve that and make it possible to recover from this devastating pandemic. And so, we have decided to join other municipalities and government agencies across the nation, including the U.S. military, who are making this decision to protect the people who are keeping our cities and country moving. We have also been in close communication with our partners in the labor movement to create a vaccination policy that is workable, fair and effective."

This week, Chicago officials included an option for city employees to submit to being tested twice a week at their own expense and on their time to bypass the vaccine mandate through the end of the year.

As of Oct. 15, any city employees who fail to get vaccinated or submit to semi-weekly testing or are not approved for a religious or medical exemption would be placed on no-pay status.

Lightfoot threatened, "There will be consequences if people are not complying with what the policy is by the Oct. 15th deadline."

Catanzara – the president of Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police – challenged Lightfoot's vaccine mandate and urged Chicago Police officers to defy the order. He said city officials have refused to "bargain in good faith over this subject."

"It is the city's clear attempt to force officers with a 'chicken little, the sky is falling,' into compliance – do not fall for it. Hold the line," Catanzara said.

Catanzara said lawyers for the FOP have already drafted a class-action grievance to cover "everything under the sun" that police officers could lose if they refuse to get vaccinated.

Catanzara said he would go into no-pay status on Friday in solidarity with his unvaccinated officers.

"It's safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up," Catanzara said. "That is not because of the FOP. That is 100% because of the mayor's unwillingness to budge from her hard line."

"I can guarantee you that no-pay status will not last more than 30 days," Catanzara added. "There's no way they're going to be able to sustain a police department workforce at 50% capacity or less for more than seven days without something budging."

Lightfoot responded to the head of the police union, "John Cantazara says a lot of things, a lot of it offensive, and racist and foolish."

The Democratic mayor of Chicago continued, "It's unfortunate that the FOP leadership has chosen to put out a counternarrative, but the fact of the matter is that if you are not vaccinated, you are playing with your life, the life of your family, the life of your colleagues and the members of the public."

"The only way we can make this work is we've got to hold people accountable, and we are absolutely prepared to do that," Lightfoot said.

41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano said, "I think the mayor has done her due diligence, as well, but we're asking that there be a repeal of this mandate."

In May, the Washington Post reported that at least 4,000 active officers outof 12,413 are vaccinated.

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